The holiday season may have passed, but kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster are likely still enjoying some of their gifts.
“It is so fun to see the kids at the club after the holiday, showing off their new shoes, clothes and/or new toys,” Boys & Girls Club of Westminster Program Director Jeovan Davila said.
The club has been partnering with the Westminster Police Department for over 10 years as part of the popular Shop with a Cop program. But, as it was for just about everyone else, things were different for the 2020 program.
While normally Westminster officers spend a Sunday morning at the local Walmart shopping alongside children from the club for holiday gifts that the kids get to pick out for themselves, that couldn’t happen last year. So, like many events, this one turned to a drive-through format. This year wasn’t quite the same, but still provided much needed presents and supplies for families in need.
“Children did not have the opportunity to spend time with an officer while shopping, which is always a fun experience for everyone involved,” Davila said. “A lot of our families are struggling even more now, but we’re here for our families, doing whatever it takes to build great futures. We were able to help families have a little bit happier of a holiday, while letting our families know that their community is here for them.”
Shop with a Cop coordinator Officer Norma Vasquez-Phan said the December 2020 event successfully distributed gifts and gift cards to 50 kids and their families — double the number of previous years.
“This is an extra tough year for families and kids,” Vasquez-Phan said.
With the help of an extra $5,000 in donations from the Westminster Police Officer’s Association (WPOA), 50 kids received $100 in gifts purchased by Westminster police officers. Their families also received a $100 gift card to use at Stater Bros. Walmart also contributes $2,500 annually for the event.
“All the gifts were wrapped, brought to the station,” WPOA President Officer Kyle Seasock said. “We had a ton of people pitch in this year, it was super awesome.”
Vasquez-Phan said after officers received their kids’ wishlists they headed to Walmart to shop and then wrapped all of the gifts. The gifts were distributed at the Westminster City Hall parking lot in December when families drove through for pickups.
Some Westminster police officers were on hand to help distribute gifts, and families also got a free McDonald’s breakfast. One of the officers even dressed up as Santa and one of the units was turned into a sleigh.
“We tried to keep it as normal as we could with these COVID times,” Vasquez-Phan said. “A lot of the kids, obviously they were happy, and a lot of the officers went out of their way to make it special for them. They bought as many gifts as they could.”
She said a lot of the families were “near to tears” because they hadn’t expected to get the Stater Bros. gift card.
“It’s a weird time for law enforcement and how law enforcement is being perceived,” she said. “Doing events like this lets people know, hey, officers are trying to give back to the community, they’re trying to be involved.”